Kayak Fishing: Pro Anglers' Secrets on Kayak Crappie Fishing

Kayak Fishing

Kayak Fishing

Abigail Scott

Abigail Scott
Mother, Professional Kayaker, and Software Engineer

Updated on 3/21/2023

If you want expert advice on catching crappie while fishing from a kayak, Capt. Jack Moore is the person to ask. He is an experienced guide in New Hampshire and has a reputation for being skilled at both finding and catching these popular panfish. He targets crappie at various depths and in different types of cover in lakes such as Lake Winnipesaukee, Turkey Pond, and Bellamy Reservoir in New Hampshire, as well as Sebago Lake in Maine. His techniques can be applied by crappie anglers in many areas where the fish can be found.


Jack mentioned that there are several benefits to using a kayak for fishing, including:

Anytime Access: Jack can easily navigate through tight spaces and shallow waters that may be inaccessible to motorboats. Additionally, kayaks can be launched from any location that is close to the water. Jack pointed out that while crappie can be found in many bodies of water in New Hampshire, not all of them have boat ramps. However, modern kayaks offer fewer limitations and can be launched almost anywhere.

Solitude: Kayaks can access waters that are not often visited by motorboats, providing an opportunity to fish in peaceful and uncrowded conditions.

Stealth: The low profile of a kayak allows Jack to minimize his vertical presence and avoid disturbing the water or the fish. In addition, kayaks have a smaller water displacement compared to skiffs, which means they can move through shallow waters more easily and quietly. Jack stated that the small profile of a kayak is especially useful in the early summer when fish can easily be scared away, and in the fall when the wind is less of a factor in staying on top of a school of fish.

kayak crappie

kayak crappie

What vessel to use?

Jack typically uses one of two Old Town kayaks, depending on the planned fishing activity for the day. He often fishes from a Predator XL Minn Kota, a 13-foot kayak with a 36-inch beam and a 45-pound thrust Minn Kota trolling motor. 

When he wants to paddle, he uses the Predator 13, which is 13 feet 2 inches long and 33 1/2 inches wide. To maximize his fishing time, Jack advises organizing and accessing gear efficiently. He brings multiple rods with different lures and uses rod holders, such as the Scotty rocket launcher, to have quick access to his rods. 

He also has a crate with a 3-rod holder mounted to it, where he stores plastic tackle boxes filled with his favorite lures. For fishfinding, Jack uses a Sonarphone from Vexilar Inc. This full color mobile sonar unit transmits the sonar signal to an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet via WiFi. He uses the Vexilar SP200 T-Box and an iPad to view the sonar information. Jack likes the Sonarphone T-Pod because it is affordable, portable, and can be shared with others using the app on their smartphone or tablet. 

In addition to fishing gear, Jack also brings tools such as pliers, a camera, a measuring tape, and a stringer or cooler if he plans to keep his catch for dinner.

Choosing Your Crappie Tackle

Fishing Lures And Baits For Crappie

A jig with a trailer is one of the most effective among the many types of lures you can use. It is possible to cast to the brush pile and let the lure sink to the fish's level before retrieving. Another option is to jig the lure vertically, it involves dropping it over the side of your kayak and bouncing or wriggling it to entice a strike.

Pro-tip: Try varying your depths when using this method to see what the fish like best.

Color Is Important

When choosing your jig trailer can be overwhelming. Pick the light natural color with a straight tail first, then the curly tail if you're unsure what to get. Choose a darker color in the same patterns after that. When you first start, you should only use these, and then as you become more adept, you can branch out to other colors and sizes.

Chartreuse is the color of choice for many crappie anglers when it comes to jigs. Add one of these to your crappie tackle box if you need some chartreuse.

Fishing With Crankbaits And Live Bait

A crankbait can be very effective during the summer months. The usual assumption is that the fish slow down when the water warms up. You'll trigger a reaction strike when you throw a deep-diving crankbait and allow it to kick up dirt and sand.

Look for crankbaits that can dive 12-20 feet and run them along ledges, flats, and channels. This past structure can also be burned, but be careful not to get snagged because this will result in a lost lure. If you want to use live bait, minnows are the best choice. However, minnows are preferred prey. You can also use worms and crickets, and these will work best when suspended under a slip sinker or free-floating.

It is difficult to tell if crappie has bit until you see your bobber moving slowly, so watch your bobber closely.

Other Essentials

Fishing for crappie with a fly rod can be exhilarating, especially when actively seeking food.

Watching the fish attack on the surface when you throw a dragonfly popper is fun. When fish are more likely to be in the shallows looking up in the water column during the spring and summer, this strategy is most effective in the mornings and evenings.

Spinning rods are the best option for those who do not like fly fishing.

With this setup, you can fish with just about any type of bait. With this, you will be able to cast out a small jig and throw smaller and lighter lures. You'll want to use a fluorocarbon line in the 4-6lb range. You will be able to use delicate presentations with this line, and the line will be so thin that it will be virtually invisible to fish.

When trolling with crankbaits, you should move your line up to a heavier test, typically 8-10lbs, to get your lure down deeper. Your crankbait will sink deeper with a more severe line.

Your Secret Weapon: Spider Rigging

In kayaks, you may be able to use a couple of rod holders to set up spider rigging. Spider rigging is usually done from larger boats. The jerry-rig method is best if you want to quickly cover a lot of water and do so at varying depths or lures. It may require some jerry-rigging to get 3-5 rods in the water. It's perfect for anglers who don't know where crappie school is on small lakes or are unfamiliar with the water.

Take note of the lure and depth at which you hooked your fish once you've hooked one.

Tips For Kayak Fishing For Crappies

  • Find docks, bridge pilings, and brush piles.
  • If you can't scout the lake, you can use a topographic map to locate ledges and drop-offs where fish like to hang out.
  • In addition to asking friends who live in the area, you can also contact local tackle shops.
  • Sonar will be your best friend if you're not the social type or prefer to do things on your own. Before settling down to fish, be ready to paddle around and mark spots.
  • Try changing the color of your lure first before moving on if you have found fish, but they aren't biting. Pink jigs or crankbaits can sometimes entice fish when white ones won't.
  • Also, you can try out a horsehead jig with a blade. Any lethargic fish will be more likely to strike when they feel extra vibration coming from the edge.
  • You can use this when you want to quickly cover a lot of water and do so at varying depths or lures.

The Most Common Crappie Mistakes

Sitting in one spot too long when fishing for crappie is a common mistake. Your lures have changed a few times, but you still haven't caught anything.

Changing your lures a few times can be beneficial, but if you don't want to leave because you know this spot holds fish, you should move on. If they're not hitting anything, give them a rest and look for a new area. You can always return to that spot later since you know it holds fish.

It is another common mistake not to use a map or sonar to find areas where fish are active and often leads to the error of fishing one spot too long. Most of the time, they'll be holding to cover, on ledges, or near drop-offs when you troll a lake looking for crappie. Exploring a lake while spider rigging your kayak is effective, but it is even more effective if you dig past places you know fish tend to hold. It's only possible if you have a map or use your electronics.

Spider rigged hobie

Catch And Cook: The Afterparty

Many people still enjoy the great American fish fry during the summer months. Sharing your catch with friends, family, neighbors, or anyone else can improve your day on the water. Even the most inexperienced cook can follow this easy recipe.

  • 1lb filets
  • 2 cups enriched cornmeal
  • ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne (add or subtract depending on how much heat you like)
  • Salt
  • Old bay 
  • Milk

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Dredge the fillets in milk and then cover them with the dry ingredients mixture. Pre-heat the oil to 350 F and drop the filets in. Stir frequently until golden brown. Serve with a side dish of your choice. It would be great to serve hushpuppies, slaw, and potato salad together. 

Conclusions For Kayak Crappie Fishing

Sit-on-top kayaks are now just as effective at catching crappie as johnboats or bass boats. Compared to large motorized vessels, kayaks may even have an advantage. A boat ramp at almost every lake holds crappie, but not all lakes have crappie. You should consider a kayak if you want to kayak crappie fishing anywhere and anytime.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best depth for crappie?

Slowly raising the bait through the water can help you locate fish. Fall is the time when crappie moves back to shallower water, but not usually less than 10 feet deep. They often assemble in schools suspended over structures, such as river channels or ridges, during the winter.

What is the best lake to catch crappie?

Kentucky Lake is known for its excellent crappie fishing. Kentucky Lake, a manmade lake covering 160,000 acres, stretches 184 miles in length and 184 miles in width.

When is crappie most active?

During the warmer months, crappie fishing is best after sunrise and an hour before sunset. It is also possible to catch crappie at night during the warmer months. Both black and white crappie prefer midday, when the air temperature is warmest, during the colder months.

Is it possible to catch crappie at night without a light?

The best time to catch crappie is during the morning and evening hours of reduced light. However, night fishing can be hit or miss, based on my experience. It is possible to catch big crappies after dark if you use the right approach, but if you use the wrong approach, you'll only catch mosquitoes.